LOUISVILLE, Colo. — The No. 1 ranked University of Colorado men’s cross country team soundly defeated the rest of the field by recording 28 points to win its third consecutive Pac-12 Conference Men’s Cross Country Championship on Saturday at Coal Creek Golf Course.
This is the 13th time in the 45 year history of the Pac-12 Championships that a team has recorded less than 30 points and CU’s total of 28 is tied for the eighth-best point total in Pac-12 history. Making this all more exciting was the fact that CU was hosting it’s first-ever Pac-12 Championship in any sport and won in front of the impressive home crowd of 5,123. This was also the first conference championship the Buffs have hosted since 2000 when they were part of the Big 12. That year they won both men’s and women’s titles.
“I was absolutely impressed,” coach Mark Wetmore said. “It’s fun to have a lot of people here, but they’re here to see [the runners]. Everyone is hoping to see them win, so that creates a bigger gamble that something could go wrong. These are young guys, and it’s not a team full of fifth-year seniors, and they didn’t blink. They did fine.”
The Buffs score was almost half of the total score from No. 4 Oregon, which was 54 points. No. 13 Stanford was third with 79 points in the team race and Arizona State took fourth with 140 points.
“The men overruled the plan a little bit, but that’s why they are the runners and I’m the spectator,” Wetmore said about the race. “They did fine. They were a little fast actually in the beginning. If you noticed, they were 2:55 at a kilometer, which adds up to well under 24 minutes, yet the race was 24:40. We had a couple of guys right up front, and they decided to put the hammer down and see what happened.”
CU impressed the field by placing all five of its scorers in the top nine, going 3-4-5-7-9. Blake Theroux led the Buffs with a third-place finish, his best conference finish ever. He crossed the finish line in 24:47 and was just five seconds behind Stanford’s Jim Rosa who clocked a runner-up finish in 24:42. Oregon’s Edward Cheserek won the 8-kilometer race in 24:36.
The top 10 runners ran in a solid pack for the majority of the race, only breaking off at the end. Through the 6k split, the group ran 18:43.
“We always want to run a pack strategy,” Theroux said. “We are really proud of our tight pack through every race, especially today, though. I told the guys before the race that it is such a small field. Momentum and confidence in having your guys run is everything. I know when I was running the first half of the race, I saw Morgan [Pearson], I saw Connor [Winter], I saw Pierce [Murphy], and that just gets me fired up, so we always just want to stay as a pack, but today especially.
“I would not be who I am without my guys. When I come out here, I put myself away. I put [away] my own wants, my own goals. Cross country is all about the team, and those guys push me every day and I push them. It is definitely a team thing. No one is here for themselves.”
Connor Winter was CU’s second scorer and he came across the line in 24:49 for fourth place. Ben Saarel was fifth overall in 24:53. The fourth and fifth racers weren’t far behind as Pierce Murphy took seventh (25:00) and Ammar Moussa was ninth (25:15).
Although they did not score, the rest of the team also did quite well. Morgan Pearson was 18th overall (25:42). Dillon Shije had the best race of his career as he finished 26th in 25:42. Zach Perrin was 37th (26:16) and David Kilgore was 46th (26:23).
“This is such a deep, competitive and talented team,” Wetmore said. “It’ll (the top five) change every single weekend. It’s different today than it was two weeks ago.”
With the championship being a home meet, the Buffs didn’t feel any extra pressure to perform according to Winter, but the team was able to feed off of the crowd and wanted to do well for the hometown fans.
“I don’t think it was pressure, but more of excitement,” Winter said. “You look at the crowd and hear how loud they are screaming, it has been a really fun event. We have been practicing and working out, and doing everything right. We know the course, so we really had fun, there was really no pressure. The rankings are fun for everyone else to look at, and to see what they think the teams are, and we know what we have been training for and I think we showed that today.”
The No. 16 CU women also had an impressive afternoon and placed second in the team race to No. 1 Arizona. The Wildcats recorded 69 points and the Buffs were only six points back at 75. CU finished in front of No. 13 Washington (111 points) and No. 12 Oregon (113).
“It feels amazing to be able to come out and do that,” Olympian Shalaya Kipp said. “Going into this race, you don’t know much if the home course advantage is going to be in this cross country race. Football and basketball are a little different. Home court advantage here is that we have seen the golf course, we’re at elevation. It definitely was a huge factor today.”
Kipp led the women with an eighth-place finish, crossing the line in 21:33. Kipp ran in the lead pack for the entire race. The group went through the 2k at 7:09 and then crossed the 4k split in 14:11. Kipp was just slightly off that pace with a 4k time of 14:15.
“Sometimes you cross the finish line and it’s not really where you hope to be, but I am so proud of our team today,” Kipp said. “Being second to No. 1 Arizona is phenomenal. We were within six points of them. We had a lot of girls step up and give it their all. The crowd was great. It was so loud. I didn’t even realize I was going up hills because all of the spectators were lining the hills. It was a great day.”
The Buffs also had another runner in the top-10 with Carrie Verdon finishing 10th in 21:42. She improved from a 16th place finish from the 2012 championships.
“The coaches talked to us individually about our race plans,” Verdon said. “It was mainly to just focus on breathing. Altitude racing is a bit different; you can’t just go out and kill it from the start. You really have to focus on your respiration and focus on how your body feels and not really pay attention so much to the other girls and what they’re doing. You have to know you’ll be hurting later on in the race especially.”
A pair of CU freshmen came across the finish next of the Buffs. Erin Clark was 13th, finishing in 21:59 and Melanie Nun clocked in at 22:09 for 14th. Catrina McAlister was the final scorer for the Buffs with a 30th-place finish (22:40).
The other racers for the Buffs did well although they didn’t score. Elizabeth Tremblay was 31st overall (22:43) and Maddie Alm took 36th (22:51). Abby Levene was 41st, crossing in 23:02, Courtney Bouchet was 48th (23:17) and Jenny DeSouchet was 52nd (23:52).
“The women were ranked fourth or fifth in the conference; it’s not a team full of high school stars,” Wetmore said. “We basically told them to pay attention to your race and how your body feels. [We said] ‘Don’t key off of any of your teammates, and don’t key off of any of the other opponents.’ Most of them did pretty well at that. We had one woman who was running her very first race since May, and she struggled a little bit, but that’s just something to learn from and improve on in the next three weeks.”
Stanford’s Aisling Cuffe took home the individual title in 21:04.
The Pac-12 Championships will be rebroadcast on the Pac-12 Network Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. MT.
The Buffs will be back in action at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships on Nov. 15 in Ogden, Utah.
2013 PAC-12 CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIP
Coal Creek Golf Course (Louisville, Colo.)
Men’s 8k Team Results
1. Colorado , 28; 2. Oregon 54; 3. Stanford, 79; 4. Arizona State, 140; 5. Washington, 142; 6. Washington State, 151; 7. UCLA, 152; 8. Arizona, 194; 9. California, 220.
Men’s 8k Individual Results (top 10 Individuals)
1. Edward Cheserek, UO, 24:36; 2. Jim Rosa, SU, 24:42; 3. Blake Theroux, CU, 24:47; 4. Connor Winter, CU, 24:49; 5. Ben Saarel, CU, 24:53; 6. Parker Stinson, UO, 24:56; 7. Pierce Murphy, CU, 25:00; 8. Aaron Nelson, UW 25:01; 9. Ammar Moussa, CU, 25:15; 10. Mac Fleet, UO, 25:23.
Other CU Finishers:
18. Morgan Pearson, 25:42; 26. Dillon Shije, 25:56; 37. Zach Perrin, 26:16; 46. David Kilgore, 26:23.
Women’s 6k Team Results
1. Arizona, 69; 2. Colorado, 75; 3. Washington, 111; 4. Oregon, 113; 5. Stanford, 130; 6. Arizona State, 139, 7. UCLA, 175; 8. Utah, 207; 9. California, 215; 10. Washington State, 262; 11. Oregon State, 271; 12. USC, 347.
Women’s 6k Individual Results (top 10 Individuals)
1. Aisling Cuffe, SU, 21:04; 2. Elvin Kibet, UA, 21:15; 3. Kelsey Santisteban, Cal, 21:18; 4. Shelby Houlihan, ASU, 21:19; 5. Kayla Beattie, UA, 21:20; 6. Nicci Corbin, UA, 21:23; 7. Kelsey Smith, UCLA, 21:27; 8. Shalaya Kipp, CU, 21:33; 9. Jessica Tonn, SU, 21:37; 10. Carrie Verdon, CU, 21:42.
Other CU Finishers:
13. Erin Clark, 21:59; 14. Melanie Nun, 22:09; 30. Catrina McAlister, 22:40; 31. Elizabeth Tremblay, 22:43; 36. Maddie Alm, 22:51; 41. Abbey Levene, 23:02; 48. Courtney Bouchet, 23:17; 52. Jenny Desouchet, 23:25